The Importance of “Owning” the Content of Your Resume

It’s common knowledge at this point that people frequently lie about or exaggerate their accomplishments on their resumes. But why? Why do they take the risk that a potential employer might dig a little deeper and discover the truth?

One of the reasons is because people can be insecure about who they are and what they do. They don’t think that their level of experience and knowledge is “good enough” to get the position, so they exaggerate a bit. But with each exaggeration, a resume can stray further and further from the truth.

Another reason is that people simply don’t know how to communicate their past performance and value to a new employer, so they make things sound grander than they really are in their resume. Of course, this requires them to keep track of all of their falsehoods, which can be yet another stress in the interview room.

Let’s take a closer look at why some people lie about their resumes:

This can be particularly true for sales professionals where hard facts and numbers measure success. Did you increase sales in an underperforming territory? Did you land a key account? Were you instrumental in the successful launch of a new product? Did you improve profit margins by negotiating higher prices for your products? If so, that’s great! Put it on your resume!

But what if you haven’t been 100% successful in making those things happen? Not everyone becomes a President’s Club member or “Rookie of the Year” at their job. But the good news is, you don’t need to achieve all of your professional goals to be of value to a potential employer. Companies always need solid and steady sales performers. They need committed professionals who push themselves and make real contributions to the success of the company.

So instead of trying to convince a potential employer of your spotless and golden record (which is a lie), own where you are now in your career and how you got there. An honest assessment of your work is a stepping-off point on how you can grow as a professional in the future. Don’t be complacent about your track record, but don’t underestimate it either. Think about your individual performance, but also don’t forget your contributions to a team. When you own what you do, you will naturally strengthen your resume and get a bit of extra confidence in your interviewing skills.

The most tempting lies are the ones that you are likely to get away with, and that’s why so many people pad their sales numbers. These numbers are usually confidential, so the company you are applying to has no way of verifying if you are telling the truth or not. Does this mean you should lie? Absolutely not.

For one thing, it’s unnecessary. There are ways to own your work on your resume through the use of percentages (Increased sales by 5% during an economic downturn) or general descriptions of the companies you worked at (Top-tier Fortune 100 Company). It’s all in how you frame the information.

Another reason you may wish to exaggerate your sales numbers at your previous job is that it may have been experiencing a downturn. No matter how good you were at your job, your numbers aren’t going to be good because of issues with the company itself.  What if it couldn’t deliver new products as promised? What if customers had had bad experiences with the quality control of products, so it was difficult to make additional sales? When you look at these terrible numbers, you might think that a potential employer won’t be able to separate the truth about your own work from the company’s issues. Again, it’s all in the way that you frame the information. In fact, lying about your numbers when you worked for a failing company can be a bit of a red flag to new employers that something might not be on the up-and-up with your resume.

So, instead of lying or exaggerating, be direct and tell the truth in your resume. Words matter. By owning the content of your resume and making it an accurate representation of your track record, it will ring true for the reader. Remember, whether you write your resume yourself or engage a professional resume writer, you are ultimately responsible for what your resume says. If it does not always tell the truth, then commit to fixing the problem today. A good resume writer will be non-judgmental and can help you do this in a way that will strengthen your overall interview package.

When you know your resume conveys the truth, you can own it. This will give you the confidence to demonstrate why a potential employer should hire you instead of someone else!